Relying on the Heart’s Aspiration by Chozen Roshi

It seems that half the nation is feeling angry, distressed and fearful since we heard the results of the election. My Facebook feed is full of anguished posts. People have asked me to comment.

It helps that I have lived 71 years. I have seen many ups and downs, many swings from conservative to liberal governments and back. If you look at the history of this democracy, there have been other times when our nation was deeply divided, hanging together by a thread. The Civil War is an example, in which one in five people in the US died, and President Lincoln was assassinated just five days after the war ended. Somehow we held together and moved forward.

When I was a child and my father was teaching at a Traditionally All Black College in Alabama, drinking fountains, schools, bathrooms, stores, restaurants and churches were segregated, lynchings were openly done and the KKK burned a cross on the lawn across from our house. When I was in college I marched for voting rights in the south, and a car tried to run us down on the sidewalk.

Now ubiquitous video cameras and microphones show us that it is dangerous to walk or drive while Black, LGBTQ or Muslim and reveal new aspects of misogyny.
Democracy is imperfect, like all human institutions. It lumbers forward, swinging to the left and to the right. It creates justices and injustices. However, if you look around the world, the alternatives to democracy have their own deep faults.

Please remember that the overall trend in our country, and in the world, has been towards more tolerance and more support of the marginalized, disaffected and oppressed.

Unquestionably there is much, much, much further to go.

There will always be forces that are based in fear and want to drag us back down or destroy us. Some of those forces are external and others are internal. Our practice asks us to look at the internal forces so we know how to better work with the external ones.

Impermanence is a universal law. We all have expectations about how things will unfold in the future. When those expectations are upset, we become afraid and the mind jumps to disaster-mongering. When you look clearly, you see that truly we never know what will happen, even in the next moment.

Our practice asks us this — can we go forward with the clarity of “don’t know mind” and not fall into the panic of “disaster-mongering mind”?

The best preparation for the unknown ahead is to keep a clear mind and open heart toward everyone, so that we are ready to respond to whatever need comes forward as cause and effect continues to unfold.

May these events help us look into our own afflicted and reactive states of mind and resolve to dissolve the fear and sense of separation that gives birth to them.
May these events AWAKEN! us out of the complacency that prevents us from taking real and effective action. May we work with increased wisdom and compassion to do more to help heal the suffering of the human world.

Please remember: We practice in the easy times to be ready for the difficult times.

Zen Master Torei said, “If your spirit and morale slacken, all the more rely on your vows and the heart’s true aspiration. If the obstacles are many, all the more rely on vow and aspiration. When seeing into True Nature becomes clear, when insight and function become fully free, all the more rely on the heart’s aspiration.

Hogen Roshi will lead a weeklong retreat to help clarify and open to the Heart’s Aspiration in January 2017